Panel to try again on EPA nominee

Democrats will try to advance Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Gina McCarthy to the full Senate again next week after a GOP boycott thwarted attempts to do so Thursday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who has been in ill health, will make the trip to the Capitol for the May 16 hearing, Caley Gray, a spokesman for Lautenberg, told The Hill. That would give the Senate Environment Public Works Committee a quorum for a vote.

The GOP’s absence and two missing Democrats — Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also wasn’t present — left the committee two members shy of a quorum Thursday, thwarting a vote on McCarthy, EPA’s top air quality regulator.

Republicans are blocking McCarthy’s nomination because they want EPA to hand over more information about the data it uses to design regulations that the GOP and industry oppose. They say McCarthy has not fully answered inquiries about transparency at the agency.

Democrats contend McCarthy has answered more than 1,000 questions. They — along with President Obama — say Republicans are being “obstructionist.”

Committee Republicans might disagree that Democrats can proceed with a vote, citing committee rules.

Ranking member Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) cited committee rules that two members of the minority party must be present for a vote in a Thursday memo to committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Staff members for committee Democrats maintain that Senate rules trump committee policy for such votes. Senate rules require one more lawmaker than half the total body — in this case, 10 lawmakers.

Even if the committee does advance McCarthy to the full Senate, confirming her could be difficult.

Republicans have floated the idea of employing a filibuster on her nomination, and it is unclear whether Democrats could escalate the 60-vote threshold.

Vitter’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

--This report was updated at 8:30 p.m.